Byline: Jennifer Weitzman

NEW YORK — Topping off its third year of a major strategic reorganization and more recent market share gains among its brands, Russell Corp. reported that its first-quarter earnings grew nearly fivefold.
The international branded apparel company specializing in activewear, sportswear and athletic uniforms, said Thursday that its net income rose to $2.2 million, or 7 cents a diluted share, for the quarter ended April 1, 4.8 times the $466,000, or 1 cent, earned in the year-ago period.
The income figures includes aftertax charges related to nonrecurring expenses, severance and writedowns and the sale of certain assets associated with the company’s multiyear strategic plan initiated in 1998. Exclusive of these charges, net income was $3.9 million, or 12 cents a share, compared to $6.1 million, or 19 cents, a year ago. Wall Street had projected 11 cents a share.
Net sales for the Atlanta-based company were $238.7 million, a 5 percent decline from last year’s $252 million.
“We are pleased to deliver our expected ongoing earnings in such a challenging retail environment,” chairman, president and chief executive officer Jack Ward said in a statement. “Our efforts to control our destiny have been rewarded, as we have continued to reduce costs and streamline operations while continuing to invest in the future of our brands.”
Ward said that the company, founded in 1902 as a knitting mill in Alexander City, Ala., made market share gains with its Jerzees fleece brand, golf shirts and T-shirts.
Looking ahead, Ward said expectations for yearend earnings per share remain consistent with previous guidance between $2.09 and $2.12.
In July 1998, the company announced restructuring plans to offset falling sales and eroding margins in its screen-print lines. The plans included increased advertising and marketing funding, closing all but two of its retail stores and its licensed products business in order to focus on casualwear and athletic uniforms as well as reducing costs.
The company’s major brands include Russell Athletics, Jerzees, Mossy Oak and Cross Creek.

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